Jonathan Gebauer is the co-founder of ExploreB2B, an online community making it easier for professionals to network socially within specific industries. This platform provides the user with the ability to follow articles and interact with other business experts. The company launched in 2010, mainly in the German market, and just recently made the transition to the United States in April 2012.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and the start-up story behind ExploreB2B.
Jonathan: Hi, I’m Jonathan and I’m cofounder and CEO of exploreB2B – I started this directly after university together with my sister Susanna back in 2010. exploreB2B is the direct result of Susanna’s frustration with the current situation when working in B2B, me saying we can improve it… and a bottle of rum.
exploreB2B’s concept is to create a social place that can connect companies and allow synergies between them to become visible. On exploreB2B, companies can publish articles and connect via their business topics. This extends very well to the current hype about content marketing.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Jonathan: We are always working on improving the site and creating more interaction points between users. exploreB2B is one of the first “B2B interaction solutions”, building on the successes within the B2C social media space and creating a new space for better B2B communications – there still is a lot to do. The current improvements we are working on are the expert status on the site and the ways users can achieve this status.
Q: Do you or have you owned any other businesses in the past, if so what happen to them?
Jonathan: I have not owned any other businesses in the past, though I have been involved with other founding projects before. Most of them failed before they even started
Q: How many people are currently using this platform and how do you plan to keep growing?
Jonathan: I know everyone wants to hear exact user numbers – but we have decided not to release them as of now, sorry We started back in 2010 just within the German market, and it was only in April 2012 that we officially came to the US. Since then, our traffic multiplied by six and our numbers by three – that is all I can say as of now. We are very happy with our numbers though, especially the current growth rates.
We keep on growing mainly by keeping to innovate within our chosen space – we did not have a lot of media attention, yet. I do not know whether that is because of the enterprise space being unsexy or because we are bad at PR related stuff. So we just had to enforce our growth our own way.
Q: Please share a few tips and advice for first time entrepreneurs.
Jonathan: My advice for first time entrepreneurs contradicts other peoples advice in a lot of ways: Find a project your heart is into, work on the concept as long as possible and until you have something that you feel is truly innovative and believe in. Then stick to it and believe in it – do not try to pivot as soon as difficulties and hard times come in sight – try to achieve more than just get rich. Try to reinvent the space you are working in. Entrepreneurship should be about this: come up with something that has a meaning and might change the world. If your idea has in your opinion the potential to do that, then it is worth going for that.
Q: What would you say was the tipping point for your business so far?
Jonathan: Definitely the US launch – the market has proven to be much more open to our concept than we had expected.
Q: What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew before starting ExploreB2B?
Jonathan: Hard question to answer. I did not know how hard it can be to create and lead a tech company. But I am actually grateful I didn’t because if I had known it, I might not have started this. And today, looking back, I am happy and proud on what we have achieved.
Q: Starting out what the worst mistake you made with your company, and how did you recover from it?
Jonathan: We once made a very quick decision about hiring someone. It turned out that this was simply not the right person for the job. It took us two weeks to realize and admit our mistake. The difficult part was admitting to ourselves that we did the mistake – solving the problem was easier: we just had to fire the person in question.
Though, firing someone for the first time is actually harder than people might think.
Q: What is one thing that you on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
Jonathan: There are many things that I grow on a daily basis – leadership is one thing. Letting other people do their job because I know they are better in it than me is something I have to force myself to do every day. But I am getting there
Q: How is running a tech company different than what you thought it would be?
Jonathan: Running a tech company for two years, I can say it was harder than I expected. And, being based in Germany, I can say that German bureaucracy and legal issues for tech companies required far more… creativity by ourselves than I would have thought.
Q: What was the best entrepreneurial advice you have ever been given and by whom?
Jonathan: I honestly cannot remember. I have been given loads of advice, good and bad. But singling someone out seems to do injustice to others. Something I have realized though is: Good advice usually comes in the form of an opinion, while bad advice comes in the form of an absolute.
Q: What 3 advice would you give to anyone looking to start a tech company?
1. Don’t do it for the money.
2. Don’t do it to become famous.
3. Look for a space that has not been taken. Only do it if you truly believe, that your product/project is truly innovative. If you do not believe in this – why should it ever become a true success.
Q: What is your definition of success?
Jonathan: Achieve something that I am proud of. One of my best friends just got a kid – when I saw the pride in his face, I thought he might be the most successful person I have ever met.
Q: What is your favorite success quote?
Jonathan: There are so many quotes about success, that it is hard to choose. I will though leave you with a quote that every entrepreneur should IMO know:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; ….in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (a man in the arena)
It has helped me during times my life went other directions than I intended it to.
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?
But actually my preferred form of social conversation is quite old school: just drop me a mail to jonathan@exploreB2B.com